Sustainable design for more than 160 years: the iconic Thonet 214 chair has received the German Sustainability Award Design 2021. The high-calibre expert jury judged each competition entry according to criteria such as resource efficiency, environmental sustainability and fair supply chains as well as design quality, aesthetics and functionality. The decision in favour of the 214 bentwood chair was explained as follows:
This famous Vienna coffee house chair, the 214 designed by Michael Thonet in 1859, is regarded as the most successful industrial product in the world. The design of this chair marked the start of modern furniture design, characterised by a new simple, elegant aesthetic. This aesthetic stemmed from the process of bending solid wood and the resulting reduction in the materials needed. The innovative bentwood technology gave the chair an unmistakeable shape and, at the same time, made serial production possible, which in turn meant lower prices. Another essential element of the design was its efficient packaging and distribution system: 36 disassembled chairs could be packed into a one-cubic-metre shipping crate and sent all over the world. The pieces could then be quickly and easily assembled on arrival and delivered ‒ it was even possible to have repairs done worldwide. By 1930, more than 50 million of these iconic chairs had been manufactured. The 214 is still being produced today in Frankenberg (Hesse, Germany), using wood sourced from sustainably managed forests. Thanks to its high quality and timeless aesthetics, the chair is extremely long-lasting, which has made it a global favourite for generations. It is a true model of success that has been outlasting new fashions and trends for more than 160 years.
“The 214 bentwood chair has been fulfilling the requirements of design quality and sustainability for more than 160 years now, and we are proud to say that it is the design that marked the beginning of Thonet. Receiving the award ‘Winner of the German Sustainability Award Design’ has strengthened our resolve to maintain and invest in our icons,” says Norbert Ruf, Thonet Creative Director and Managing Director.
Thonet is synonymous with quality craftsmanship and regionality: with its bentwood classics, Thonet has remained very loyal to the company’s traditional manufacturing processes, without ignoring the optimisations of modern manufacturing technology. Thonet’s furniture makers are trained in house. Priceless expertise has been passed down through many generations. In addition to its firmly established production facilities in Frankenberg (Hesse, Germany), Thonet has also always placed great value on keeping its supply chains short and investing in the company’s relationships with its partners. All of its suppliers are located in Europe and share Thonet’s values.
Thonet chairs are frequently passed down from generation to generation. High-quality materials and flawless craftsmanship form the foundation for the bentwood chairs’ longevity. The furniture can also be reliably refurbished using the in-house repair service, which means that a model like the 214 is anything but a disposable product.
The German Sustainability Award is the national award that recognises excellence in the area of sustainability. Now with nine different categories of award – including companies, cities and communities, research, start-ups and, this year for the first time, design – the prize is the largest of its kind in Europe. The award is presented by the German Sustainability Award Foundation, in cooperation with the German federal government, local government umbrella associations, business associations, civil organisations and research institutions.
The German Sustainability Award Design was launched in order to recognise pioneering products. The new award is based on the goals outlined by the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and aims to help guide consumers at a time when sustainable design is in greater demand than ever.